The "everyone does it" logic

Am I the only one who either finds it funny or shakes my head when people who should be speaking for themselves say some variation of “everyone does it”? Way too many people apply their own thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors to everyone because apparently every human’s brain is exactly the same. Some examples off the top of my head include: the all too popular, “Everyone’s a little racist”:dubious:; “Everybody has violent feelings at times, due to their frustration and stress inside. It’s inevitable that these emotions must come out while you drive. It’s just human nature.”; from my teenage sister, “Everyone acts up when they’re angry”; a religious man telling a plane crash story on TV said something to the effect of, “Everyone gets mad at god and asks him why after a tragedy. It’s human instinct.”:smack:

How common do you think it is for people to make blanket statements about everyone based on their own experiences? Do you believe everyone does it, that it’s human instinct? Or is it only a trait of the ignorant? I guess I can’t blame some people. We only know our own minds, feelings, and sensations, so it’s often the case that we all think something we experience is universal, but this only applied to me as a child. I now know that anything I experience or do may not be typical. The only thing I believe just about everyone does or has done is lie, coming from a much too honest person.

What say you?

I thin the worst thing is most people don’t bother to even think or try something just because “people say” it’s bad.

I don’t think the trait or expression is an indication of intelligence or anything else; just one of those fall-back phrases that exist in all of us to one degree or another. The separation may be in how one uses it. A great scientist or student of psychology/sociology/philosophy/theology may use it to describe or explain some behavior beyond my comprehension or his time available to provide an adequate explanation. An idiot uses it because he actually believes its true.

There are people, sadly in a distinct minority, who occasionally reflect on themselves in an honest way in order to become a better person. Then there are people who have no interest in becoming better and so only compare themselves to other people who are worse than they are. “At least I don’t do that!” with the implication of “I may fail as a person in these various ways, but…”

The last thing we can do when confronted with such people, however, is to criticize their lack of self-reflection. Instead we should further reflect on ourselves and try to figure out why it bothers us so much, and thereby find a way to let it go.



…I have no idea how to answer this without frying my logic circuits. :smiley:

Yes, I think it’s common, yes, I think nearly everyone does it, and furthermore, quite often, I think they’re right. People are not unique special snowflakes in 99% of their actions and thoughts. If you’ve thought it, chances are good that so has someone else. Whether that’s literally *everyone *else is doubtful, but if even 1% of the rest of humanity has thought it, that’s 100 million people in history that have also thought it. And mostly when people say “everyone”, they simply mean a significant number of others.

It used to be that you’d have to go through some intensive self-help group kumbayaya type experience to realize that every weirdo foible you thought only you ever had was in fact shared by most of the people in the room. Now it just takes about 5 minutes on Facebook to figure out just how unique you are. And that’s not at all.

I think actual research is validating “everyone is a little bit racist,” by the way. Depending on how you define racist. Does everyone act on their racist biases? Absolutely not. But we all have them, as do many other animals.

This is pretty much what I was going to say. In examples like the ones in the OP, “everyone does it” doesn’t necessarily mean literally everyone; it means it’s common, normal, not unusual.

I put “Everyone does it” in the same section as “Don’t you want to be one of the gang?” and “What, are you chicken?” It strikes me as a basic tenet of marketing. Why else would Facebook be certain to tell me how many people play Farmville, et. al. ?

I don’t know if “instinct” is the right word, but it is a rationalization. And humans are notorious for rationalizing.

Flip the coin the other way. Suppose someone is about to be punished for breaking a rule that ‘everyone’ breaks. This is unfair. “everyone” smokes a little reefer once in a while. Yet, the people who were caught will face difficulties getting a job (even a misdemeanor shows up these days) for the rest of their lives, while “everyone” else does not face these difficulties. “everyone” drives about 5-10 mph over the limit. Yet the police do sometimes pull people over just for that, if they feel like it.

Now, I’m sure people will respond with “not everyone” smokes reefer/speeds. True. But it’s something like 30-50%+ of the population. Why should the small percentage the authorities actually catch face severe penalties for something even the authorities themselves probably do?

It doesn’t have to be. What if, through some bizarre circumstance, someone suspected that you were guilty of both impure thoughts and even occasional masturbation? They go on and on about about how you are an evil freak that is going straight to Hell but not before they expose you publicly for you bizarre and perverse “sins”. Would you be truly fearful of this threat, deny that you could ever be guilty of such things or just have a much simpler response?

Some behaviors are close enough to universal that saying “everyone does it” is good enough shorthand to use when a few people that are the true outliers try to deny it.


In fact, on the racist thing, the racial bias implicit association tests at Project Implicit at Harvard are a bit unnerving. I’ve done the main one three times now, and there’s definitely racism in me, and it’s not something one can just switch off. I would like to hear from somebody who has done that test and NOT found themselves to be racist; none of my numerous friends who have tried it have come up clean.

This doesn’t have to be a hijack. To some degree there’s a kind of wisdom in pointing to things “everybody does”. I don’t mean the habit of finding somebody worse than oneself to enjoy a favorable comparison. I mean, doing the same thing you see practically everybody around you doing, when you don’t have a better way to choose your actions, does actually tend to turn out more or less OK. The racism one is a good example. There’s an analogy out there (youtube? TED?) that says we should think of racism the way we think of dental hygiene. Everybody has some racism in them and occasionally it shows, just like everybody needs to brush their teeth or dentures. We should be able to say “your racism is showing” as safely as we can say “I think you have a bit of lettuce stuck in your teeth”, instead of making “racist” such a hated identity that bringing it up is an insult.

I want an example of a non-human animal that has ANY cultural construct equivalent to human racism.

Sure. Abused dogs often become fearful or aggressive to humans who share a superficial trait with their abusers - bearded men, for example, or overweight women.

This ginger colored seal was shunned by the normal looking seals.

Cichlid males don’t like to mate with females with coloring outside of their own group.

Chimps kill members of other groups, as do most social animals that live in groups. Whether such territorialism is based on a physical or scent identifier that we could consider an animal “race” or not, they definitely have an us-vs-them attitude, and no qualms at all about killing any Thems.

I know that no one is ever alone in their thoughts and feelings, but just because some others they know or know of have experienced it, doesn’t mean they can call it human nature. That’s my problem, painting millions, if not billions, of people with a brush that only contains the colors of that very tiny fraction of the population you have talked to, heard of, seen on tv, read about, etc.

I think many people apply their flawed thoughts and behaviors to others to either to avoid feeling bad about themselves or to justify them when confronted.

I can assure you that I have absolutely no “racial” biases whatsoever. NADA. NONE. ZERO. I do not ever look at anybody differently based on their skin color. I will lock my car door if a middle class white girl stood near it (and I have) as I have with any other ethnicity. I am equally attracted to men from any ethnic group. I can get along with anyone from any ethnic group equally. Ethnicity never once crosses my mind when I see or talk to someone. If everyone has prejudices or biases, then I’m a proud alien.

I agree that there are certain behaviors that are typical, and for these I have no issue with someone saying, “everyone does it”. Lustful thoughts and masturbation, for example, have at least been proven to be normal and most of us know it applies to the majority if not all of the population. The ones I find ridiculous are the ones who automatically decide that their own minds and those of relatively few other people represent the entire human race without actually checking these “facts”. Statements like the second and last one in the OP especially just really make me :confused:. I just know those two made these baseless assumptions from their own heads.

Of course I have no firsthand experience with you and can’t read what is inside your head, but, I can’t quite imagine this. How do you know what all of your unconscious biases are?

However, very few do both at the same time.

Sort of too broad. “Everyone else steals grapes from the produce section” is justification to act poorly. “Everyone gets sad sometimes” is a statement on the human experience and notice that you’re not alone in your grief.

That said, neither is literally meant to say “100%, all the time, no exceptions throughout the entire course of human history”. Without debating whether or not you’ve ever personally experienced a racist thought, the gist of it is that the vast majority of people have and perhaps using that as a starting point for some sort of conversation.

Would you agree that 5 years in prison for stealing grapes would be too much? What if they usually only applied the punishment to people not in your ethnic group? Wouldn’t it feel pretty unfair if one day you ate a grape, cops come out of hiding, cuffing you and slamming you facefirst into the ground (“did you not read the signs, scumbag?!”) and now you are locked in jail, facing the possibility of trial and conviction.

Wouldn’t it feel a little unfair if you didn’t really know about the law (it’s not well publicized and it was some combination you didn’t know about, like maybe you were carrying an unlawful plant in your pocket at the same time while munching the grape and this somehow “makes it” a felony) and you saw others eating grapes at the produce section last week?

I’m not just making shit up. People have gotten life sentences for stealing a candy bar. (yeah, ok, it was their next strike, but it still makes the marginal penalty obscene)

So the OP is asking us how we feel about “everyone” making blanket statements about “everyone”, when there isn’t anything “everyone” does, except lie (as determined by the OP)? :dubious: This feels less like an honest question and more like some weird form of stealth brag.